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Our interdisciplinary animal behavior program — one of the few in the world — encompasses many areas of study including, physiology, anatomy, psychology, neuroscience and more. Our students have ready access to expertise in all of these fields because we are embedded in the School of Life Sciences — a broadly inclusive school, unlike programs at other institutions that are housed in only one department.
While having a breadth of opportunity is an advantage, our program’s small scale also fosters collaboration and teamwork among students and faculty alike. Our sense of community is enhanced by a core set of small, intense seminars and methods classes that all of our students take together. And while we nurture this close community, we also take into account the diverse interests of our students. We build tailor-made curricula from the broad array of courses and expertise available at ASU.
Our doctoral students are generally interested in finding academic jobs that are either research-oriented or teaching-oriented. With this PhD, there is also great potential for government work or jobs with conservation-oriented non-governmental organizations.
If you want to create a unique and integrative research niche in your respective area of animal behavior, this program is ideal. You won't find a program like this one anywhere else.
This program requires 84 credit hours — eight from two core courses including research strategies and a seminar on current issues in animal behavior. These are taken over four semesters.
Remaining credit hours are earned through a combination of electives in related fields and dissertation research credits. You will construct a research proposal and defend your dissertation research with a public seminar, followed by an oral exam.
Follow the Apply Now link.
You will be asked to:
Applications are accepted Oct. 1 - Dec. 15, with a preference date of Dec. 1. The Animal Behavior PhD program admits one group of students annually to start their program the following August.
There is no guarantee that applications received after Dec. 15 will be reviewed. In January, the top applicants will be invited to a recruitment event scheduled in mid- to late-February.
Before applying, we encourage you to read our Tips for Applying. We will notify you of your admissions status by April 15.
The Animal Behavior program is a tight-knit group of students, researchers, and professors. I know the names of every student in the program and faculty members are eager and willing to help me get access to resources across ASU. You get the best of both worlds: the sense of community from a tight-knit group and the ability to utilize resources from a massive university.
— Andrew Burchill, PhD student
In this degree program, you will receive training in both classic and cutting-edge concepts and techniques in the field, and develop research competence in animal behavior that integrates approaches from many areas, including:
Your core coursework includes field- and lab-based research, as well as student-driven seminars that cover emerging themes in the literature.
Training spans both theoretical and empirical approaches, ultimate and proximate levels of explanation, and a wide taxonomic breadth of study species.
As an animal behavior student, you'll benefit from internal ASU research centers such as the Global Biosocial Complexity Initiative, and numerous seminar series including the Social Insect Research Group and the Colloquium on Evolution of Social Complexity.
Finally, you'll have access to external research opportunities through ASU partnerships with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Santa Fe Institute.
Elective or Research
Total hours required
Students will focus on two core courses — a four-credit-hour, field- and lab-based “research strategies” class (ANB 601) and a one-hour seminar (ANB 602) on current issues in animal behavior to be taken over four separate semesters during your PhD tenure.
Remaining credit hours are earned through a combination of elective courses in related fields (e.g. ecology, evolutionary biology, genetics, neuroscience, physiology, psychology and statistics) and dissertation research credits. All assembled in conjunction with your supervisory committee, this body of coursework will serve as your Plan of Study.
ANB 601 Research Strategies in Animal Behavior
Offered each year, this four-credit core course is aimed at incoming students in the degree program. It will involve six hours of lab or field research and two hours of lecture each week.
1. To introduce the interdisciplinary diversity of procedural, technological and conceptual strategies used to answer descriptive and causal questions about the behavior of animals, including humans. This is done through a series of 4-8 carefully crafted field or laboratory exercises (1-2 weeks/lab, 6 hrs/week). This course will culminate in a 4-week-long individual project that you will conceptualize, design and execute.
The exercises will feature a diversity of taxa and conceptual approaches used in the study of animal behavior. Here are examples of exercises that would cover this diversity.
2. To provide, in the first hour of lecture, background information on procedures and strategies used in the study of behavior across a number of disciplines that there is not time to cover during lab exercises throughout the semester. These may include physical characterization of light, chemical and sound signals, basic statistical applications, rigorous comparative analyses of behavioral diversity, tools used in the study of learning, information theory, and the techniques used in the recording and analysis of sequences of behavior.
3. To introduce the diversity of study systems and cutting-edge interdisciplinary approaches taken in the study of animal behavior at ASU and elsewhere. This is done through a series of lectures by ASU researchers. Grading will be based on the following items:
ANB 602 Current Issues in Animal Behavior
This course is offered every semester. Everyone in the program is required to enroll in this 1-credit-hour course in at least 4 semesters of your PhD degree program.
To achieve these goals we may (have):
Grading is based on written reports on current issues and on the quality of presentations.
“ANB 602 is a huge strength! We can work with faculty to create a seminar on any topic within animal behavior, which is such a broad field. We learn about new tools, methods, topics, or even work together to write a paper.”
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